By John C. McGinley (as told to Alex Belth)
I’m spit-balling with you but my favorite memories of Yankee Stadium came from a period of time when everyone I knew was an unemployed actor. I’m from New York originally. I was born in St Vincent’s in the Village and lived in Peter Stuyvesant Town until I was ten. Then my parents moved to the suburbs in Jersey but later I went to NYU and then lived on Perry and Bleecker for close to twenty years before I finally came out here in ’91. I got out of NYC to 84 and for the next five years, everyone I knew was unemployed actors. You’d get an off-Broadway play, or a day job on a soap, but mostly it was a grind, it was a struggle.
I loved to go up to the Bronx on an afternoon and catch a game. I’d go up to a day game at 161 and find all the other unemployed actors. Some guys would go to Shea but I never rooted for the Mets until Willie became their manager a few years ago and then I loved them.
The Yankees were terrible then. It wasn’t like today, getting a ticket was no sweat even if you were dead broke. Seats weren’t hard to come by. If a scalper was eating a scalper ticket sandwich two innings into the game, you could get it on the cheap. The scalper would have to eat it by that time. So we’d start up in the cheap seats and then move down. Most of us brought our own booze in with us, everybody brought what they needed. There would only be something like 12,000 people in the Stadium on a weekday afternoon. The ushers would let you down by the dugout because they were unemployed actors too.
The one thing that was understood was that nobody asked each other what they were doing. Cause the answer was, you’re doing nothing. You’re going to a Yankee game cause the phone’s not ringing. There were no cell phones in those days so guys would get up during the game and go use a payphone to call their machine to see if anyone on the planet would give them a job. And then you’d go back and watch the game for three hours and get lost in it and be happy.
We’d bust each other’s humps and argue and see who could memorize the most statistics. Tommy Sizemore had a photographic memory that was not dissimilar to Bob Costas’s ability to recall stats and facts. I was so pathetic I’d bring Roger Angell books up. I read his stuff in the New Yorker and his collections. Halberstam’s writing in the Summer of ’49 and especially The Teammates. I’m a sucker for baseball writing because the game lends itself to poetic prose. Some people think it’s too much but I think it’s great. So we’d talk about baseball and be having a good time.
I loved Yankee Stadium because of the colors and the smells and the potential for anything to happen in the bottom of the ninth. Baseball dictates that you can always come back and even in those years when the team was awful anything could happen. It was the perfect place to be for a young, unemployed actor. Things just seemed unlimited. Day games are from God. They are the greatest.
John C. McGinley plays Dr. Perry Cox on NBC’s Scrubs.